I had a boss once who locked himself in his office half the day and sat on a special cushion (which let’s pray he washed) to meditate. He was not only one of the biggest narcissistic jerks imaginable–the kind who acts like you did something to hurt him personally while he tears you a new one over some premise you can’t quite make out but you go along with hoping you can get out sooner that way–alive.
He said one day, “I don’t believe in hope–the future–or the past–there’s only now.” His favorite books were Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, and the Tao Te Ching. This is a true believer. Did I mention he was psycho?
Some curious if not precise facts:
1. Anything you do or say right now your brain has already told you to do–without you even knowing it–about 6 seconds ago.
2. When you look at the mirror, you are never seeing the present you–the real you, if you like. Because of the distance the light travels between your eye to the mirror and back again, even if a millionth of a second, it’s always a past version of yourself, and not you now, that you you’re looking at. (Let’s mention also the obvious fact that it’s a mirror image, your right on your left and vice-versa. And mirrors are treacherous things: dressing room mirrors always make you look fatter than the one you have at home–which one is telling you the truth?)
3. Everything we think we see as it is we don’t. What we perceive through our eyes and ears is processed, whether we know it or not, through a complex algorithm of everything we’ve seen or heard in the past the way someone else has presented it to us. Think about all the movies you’ve seen, for example, and realize they dictate, more often than the other way around, what you think you experience. Or, ever find yourself negotiating with your friend or spouse about what something is or the way it looks? Sometimes it takes a while for us to agree, but once we settle on it, that image of the thing itself will influence our perception. Arguably, we never see the thing itself, but only a weak negotiation.
4. Your brain–the one that told you about 6 seconds ago what you would do “right now”–acts on instinct based on past experiences, in your lifetime but largely in our species’ evolution, to predict future dangers or opportunities and better (mis)direct you. Also, your senses–the ones you don’t know about usually–let you know when and how to react.
Past and future, maybe; present, doubtful
On a 5 star rating system:
Chances of a past: 3 1/2 stars. To get to here, wherever it is here is, we had to pass through past steps, supposedly. But when I discuss my memories of the past with my family, who stepped through this past with me, they deny my memories. Either they say I imagined the whole scenario and scene, or else I am reshaping the memory to suit my selfish perspective. I look at the family photo album and see pictures of me (I was cotton blond then, as opposed to “black” hair and gray-speckled beard now), an album, which by the way my parents jealously guard from me in the third-story locked cedar closet, where all such memories are kept prisoners, and I am ushered back through time to that moment, along with all my childhood emotions surrounding the event, but I remember that no one agreed with my perspective even then. There is a picture–not exactly like Keat’s 1819 poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”–of my older sister, aged 6, carrying a Frisbee over her head which she stole from me and I rush behind her crying after it. My dad took the picture, laughing too, I remember. “No, that’s not the way it happened,” my sister says. “It was like this.” And my father says, “You’re both wrong. It was like this.” (How foolish it all is. I wouldn’t cry now!) There are pictures in my head, not represented by photographs, of me aged merely months, not years, and though I experience such times now even more poignantly now then my present–perhaps this is from the numbing prescription drugs, as it is forbidden nowadays to feel sad or anxious–or perhaps it is because the past simply is more real because it is past and we have had time to think through all of the possible angles and ramifications–but it’s doubtless none of these, because nobody believes me that I can remember that far back–biologically impossible–so it must only be a psychological invention of some sort to cope with my past? Or my present? I’m not sure–but it can’t be real. It is real. It could be as in the beginning of Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, the subject half asleep, half dreaming, cutting and pasting together his lonely masterpiece.
Chances of a present: 2 stars. 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Now, I react. It would be hard to say that I act according to any conscious method. My housewife (as opposed to my jobwife or anyotherwife) says, “I cut myself on one of my new sharp knives.” Blood drips from her finger. She is having a calm reaction to a violent act. But the act is over and soon the blood has dried and soon she is dead from other causes–we have hoped old age–but I am also dead and not able to grieve. We create our books and art and monuments and we create our selves–Andy Warhol’s ever-youthful 1,001 blond, choppy wigs. You will experience what I write now as in the present so long as you can keep up with the words that outrun you like the mechanical rabbit on a greyhound racetrack. If you make it to the end of this article, then you will stop, but the rabbit will have slipped into its tunnel to run, as far as you might know, endlessly, if there ever was a rabbit. There is one rabbit after another, and each race is preparation for the next that will never come. After the knife’s incision, I could make a clear judgment about what happened, my own Rashomon, cutting myself in fourths. I might annoyingly beg someone to talk to me to reassure me that I am not alone here in this present, but each person–and even I myself–only talks as if having memorized a script, no improvisation, stopping to ask for a line here and there. We argue like this, perhaps about leaving knives out where they can cut you, but the absurdity of the scene–What’s my line again?–we our viewing ourselves as actors in our own feature film. I suppose when we all get to heaven, we will discuss with the director and the critic and come to some kind of agreement. But for now… for now I see underwater, through goggles.
Chances of a future: 5.0 stars. “The future is now. The future is now. The future is now. The future is now….” We have always believed in a future, but did we ever believe advertising–except now? With each new ecstatic invention, at once futuristic, now démodé, historical costumes and props, there will always be something better we will look forward to in our state of constant disappointment. 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” That is possibly to say, that, yes love is the greatest thing, but without faith and hope, as the holy trinity, there is no perfect love. And faith and hope are nets we cast into the sea of future lodgings and meals. Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And, Romans 8:24: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” So now, how can we love, if there is no faith in the outcome, if there is no hope? If I am more certain of anything, it is that I am always going forward, never standing still. The waves do not wash over me. I pass through the waves or they carry me off–either way it is the same thing–I am not static. Inertia is a parody of paradox. Ecclesiastes 1:4: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” Revelation 21:1: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
Ekh*rt T*ll* is full of sh”t
Freud had long ago already chopped us into three: the id, the ego, and the super ego. Mr. Tollbooth has reduced to two, the suffering self and the observing, potential self. Let’s have Freud and him put on the gloves and get in the ring together.
The title bout will be with the eight stages of Erikson. Tag team.
Evil men and women of now
Why do we obsess over Hitler? Because he is safe. He is dead. When he was alive, we did everything we could to ignore him.
Slavoj Zizek has theorized that we westerners have fetishized Buddhism–the so-called Western buddhism–so that now for us, we can do all sorts of unspeakable evil without a shred of guilt, because for us, we know, truly all of this is an illusion and we, the enlightened ones, walk through the veils of illusion and claim the power of now! — This is stylized Zizek a la stylized Nietzsche a la stylized Hitler — A new fable of the Übermensch.
And now back to my former boss
But why? He is stuck in some past now, unable to harm. Either that, or he has been thrown into evolutionary instinct that dictates, try avoiding all future assholes.
The yin and yang of good and evil
They must be in the past and in the future as a cat chasing its tail as in a mythological never-ending villainous present. The strong have devoured the weak, but the weak will devour the strong–more like a serpent than a tail, unless viewed from the other end.
And now for a little less madness
It must be as simple as a parent instructs his or her child:
“If you do this, this will happen. Don’t do this. Do that. I speak from experience. You are a child. I know you can’t see past now, but that’s why I’m here. Someday, you will be telling your child the same thing.”
“And don’t worry. You’re going to be fine.”